They say variety is the spice of life – but does the same hold true for Big Data?

Last week Chicago was one of 29 host cities around the world for Big Data Week, a week-long series of workshops on big data and analytics.  I had the privilege of giving a ten minute “rapid-fire” talk about big data in banking and also attended a number of other workshops.  It was a fun, thought-provoking week full of interesting case studies and great networking between government, business, and academia.

My big take away from the week is that while big data is typically defined of as the three “V’s”  – Volume, Velocity, and Variety – it’s the variety of data, from how it’s collected and integrated to the ways it’s analyzed, that I find most intriguing.

In my talk, I used the example of a mid-sized bank as a case study.  At West Monroe we work with many banking clients between $500 million and $10 billion in assets that might have 10,000 to 20,000 customers and a local or regional market footprint.  We have used data and analytics to help them optimize their customer growth and retention through wider adoption and usage of debit cards, cross-selling additional services or accounts, and streamlining the customer experience.

These clients don’t have an extraordinarily large volume of data, at least by big data standards.  However, when you start to map all of the types of data they have at their disposal, a fairly complex picture emerges that makes integrating and analyzing this data difficult.



These data are typically stored in disparate systems, represent a mix of structured and semi or unstructured data, and the relationships among these datasets cab be complex.  You have temporal, transactional, and even spatial relationships that can be hard to reconcile with conventional approaches.

The value of big data tools when analyzing “small” data are that they allow you to quickly build a “data-space” for flexible and agile exploration.  The tools within the Hadoop ecosystem, for example, enable you to stage data and quickly, iteratively explore it to find the most meaningful patterns and insights.

This theme played out over and over again throughout the week.  Whether it’s city government, public health, life sciences research, sustainability, or business, it’s clear that big data technologies are enabling us to analyze a wider variety of data than ever before.   And we’re creating new insights and findings every day.  This landscape is changing so quickly and I can’t wait to hear what we are talking about at Big Data Week 2014!



Phone: 312-602-4000
222 W. Adams
Chicago, IL 60606
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